Blaine Gabbert Makes Case to Retain Starting Job in Win over Falcons

In three seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Blaine Gabbert posted a 5-22 record as the starter. He took the brunt of the blame for his team's shortcomings despite many other less-than-ideal circumstances surrounding him.

So when the San Francisco 49ers turned to Gabbert this week, the skepticism of the backup quarterback's ability predictably returned.

In the face of substantial doubt from outside the building, Gabbert didn't silence his detractors on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, but he certainly turned down the volume.

A loose and far more mature Gabbert completed 15-of-25 passes for 185 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions to lead the San Francisco 49ers (3-6) to a 17-16, upset win over the Falcons (6-3).

"I'm so appreciative for this opportunity," Gabbert said postgame. "I just wanted to go out there today and just have fun. You play well when you're having fun and that was the biggest thing."

At first glance, Gabbert's stat line doesn't appear all that striking. But the numbers don't tell the whole story.

The quarterback had multiple passes dropped by his receivers, including one Jerome Simpson bobbled into the hands of an Atlanta defender for an interception. Gabbert also avoided pressure well and displayed toughness when he had to. He absorbed several big hits while standing tall in the pocket and running for 32 yards on eight carries.

"The biggest thing is we got the victory," Gabbert said. "It wasn't pretty at times, but our defense played well.

"At the end of the day, I told the o-line I was going to stick in there and take some shots to the chin but get the ball out. Our running backs did a great job on check downs and our receivers did a great job getting open quickly."

Both of Gabbert's touchdowns went to tight end Garrett Celek. But perhaps his best play of the afternoon came in the first quarter with the 49ers trailing by a field goal. On 3rd-and-6 at the San Francisco 20-yard line, Gabbert avoided pressure, scrambled to his right and hit Quinton Patton in stride for a 41-yard gain.

The 49ers eventually capped that drive with seven points to take their first lead, one they would not surrender.

For at least a moment in fourth quarter, it appeared as if Gabbert might not be able to finish what he started. The quarterback took a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit from former 49ers linebacker Philip Wheeler and was forced onto the sideline to be examined.

Gabbert fought to stay in the huddle, but he ended up missing two snaps before being cleared to return.

"I was a little fired up but that's the protocol that we have installed now and it's all for the safety of the players," Gabbert said. "You've got to respect their decisions and go through kind of the steps.

"I felt fine. There was no doubt in my mind that I wasn't coming back in. That was about it."

On San Francisco's following possession, Gabbert made his lone mistake of the afternoon – underthrowing Garrett Celek for an interception. San Francisco's defense held the Falcons to a field goal, however, and the 49ers maintained a one-point lead with less than three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

Gabbert made up for his miscue moments later by securing the game-clinching first down on a 3rd-and-4 bootleg run.

"It was a play that we had been working on all week," Gabbert said. "We were going to go to it in crunch time.

"Our offensive line did a tremendous job selling the power to the left and it was a run-pass option, but once I knew we had the defensive end sealed, it was me on a DB. I was just going to go for the first down regardless."

Gabbert led the 49ers to a win despite not having Anquan Boldin and the team's top three running backs to alleviate pressure. Still, Jim Tomsula declined to announce Gabbert as the team's starter moving forward.

The 49ers return to action following the bye week in Seattle against the rival Seahawks. 

"All I know is we got the victory," Gabbert said. "We're going to prepare for Seattle, that's our next game up there. And whatever 11 guys we march out on the field, we're going to go up there and expect a victory."

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